Friday, January 29, 2010

Rains notwithstanding, California drought isn't over

Matt Weiner in the Sacramento Bee: The question now gurgles up from every storm drain and creek in California: Is the drought over? The simple answer is no. The reasons why are not so simple. Two weeks of heavy rain and snow – nice as it is – cannot entirely erase three years of drought statewide.

For starters, California's largest reservoirs are far from full. This includes Shasta, Oroville and Folsom, all vital storage points for state and federal water supply canals. These reservoirs likely won't fill completely with the snowpack on the ground now, especially if there is no more of it by April Fools' Day.

…Beyond that, and despite the state's economic woes, California keeps growing. That means ever-greater water demand, which each year pushes total salvation from drought further away. Nature gives California a finite water supply, whether it's snow in the mountains or groundwater deep beneath our feet. It is now widely recognized that all of our water supplies are overtapped.

…Climate change throws another wrench in the works. Global warming is expected to bring more rain and less snow. This will mean less water melting from the mountains to slake California's thirst through summer and fall.

Environmental protections are another limitation. To save salmon and protect water quality in the Delta, federal officials have ruled that we must divert less water.

For all these reasons, the state Department of Water Resources estimated in a draft report this week that it will be able to send State Water Project customers only 60 percent of contracted water amounts in average water years. Drought years would produce even less….

The Hetch Hetchy reservoir, shot by Edgy01

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